SINGAPORE — On Monday (Feb 13), the first day that commuters were not required to wear masks on public transport, many people still opted to keep their masks on.
During the morning rush hour at Jurong East, Toa Payoh and Bishan MRT stations and Bangkit LRT station, more than two thirds of the commuters, including schoolchildren and the elderly, had face masks on.
Almost all the station staff were wearing masks and gloves.
The lifting of the mask rule on public transport — one of the most enduring Covid-19 restrictions — was announced on Feb 10 by the multi-ministry task force tackling the Covid-19 outbreak.
This came as Singapore moves to live with Covid-19 as an endemic disease, lowering the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) level from yellow to green.
The task force said the move was in response to the global and local pandemic situation being stable and the disease mild, especially among vaccinated individuals.
Visitors, staff and patients in healthcare and residential care settings, where there is interaction with patients, are still required to wear masks. These places include hospital wards, clinics and nursing homes.
Sun Ah Moy, 75, who was hospitalised for 10 days after contracting Covid-19 in 2021, said on Monday that she opted to still wear a mask so that she can avoid the painful experience.
“Public transport is so crowded. I want to protect myself. I’ll also wear it to the markets in the morning even when it’s not required,” said the retiree, who was at Bangkit LRT station.
She added that she also advised her grandchildren to keep their masks on in school.
Loganathan Hemanth Chander, 20, an intern at an audit firm, who was taking the train from Lakeside MRT station to Raffles Place, said he will continue to wear a mask despite the lifting of the rule.
“Anything can happen and I just want to be protected and safe. Even in the office, I remove my mask only when I’m eating, or sometimes when the mask is uncomfortable, but most times I have it on,” he said.
For others, mask-wearing has become a habit that is hard to break.
Tee Liwei, 35, an administrative assistant at a tyre company who was at Jurong East MRT station, said she had forgotten that people were allowed to use public transport without a mask, but added that she would still keep hers on as it has become a habit.
She said she would consider taking her mask off only if it gets stuffy.
Researcher Gerald E, 30, who was not wearing a mask on a train on the East-West line, said it was because he had dropped his mask along the way.
“I would prefer to have one on if I can,” he said, adding that he was not particularly worried to go without one because he had recently got his fourth Covid-19 booster jab.
However, a handful of commuters embraced the freedom of being mask-free.
Anne Lee, in her mid-40s, who works in an accounting firm, did not have a mask on at Jurong East MRT station.
“I just cannot breathe when I’m wearing a mask. I also get skin problems,” she said, adding that she had been waiting for this mask-free day for a long time.
Bel K, 32, who works in the fintech industry and was at the same station, said she did not think that masks are necessary on public transport any more given that they are not required at indoor venues like shopping centres.
“Covid-19 is not a very big concern for me right now,” she said.
At Toa Payoh MRT station, florist Janice Teo, 61, said she was not wearing a mask because she was vaccinated and not afraid of getting Covid-19.
She still keeps her masks handy.
“My only concern is that some of the elderly commuters do not understand that if they’re coughing, they have to wear a mask. I’ll wear my mask if I hear someone coughing,” she said.
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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.